'Silver Lining': Bluegrass album is a long time coming

September 17, 1998|By TERI JOHNSON

It's fitting that Mike Henderson first saw his new album at Gettysburg Bluegrass Festival last month.

The Shepherdstown, W.Va., resident has been attending festivals since 1968, and he was eager to share his first album with his friends.

In bluegrass music, the circle of friends is wide.

"These are the nicest people in the world," says Henderson, a guitarist, songwriter and singer.

Henderson says he likes nothing better than to get together with other pickers and singers, and the music they create is filled with stories.

"Silver Lining," scheduled for release Sept. 22, tells a few of them.

There's "Walking Back to Richmond," the only Civil War song Henderson has written. During an early morning drive, Henderson saw a man who looked like a soldier in silhouette. He wondered about the many men who had traveled there on their way home from the war, and the feelings they must have had.


The gospel song "There Is a River" was inspired by the death of his older brother.

Henderson, who wrote all 12 songs on the album, says the project is exciting because bluegrass usually is based on old standards.

"This is all new music that most people have never heard," he says.

On the album, Henderson is joined by Peter Bonta, who formerly played piano for Mary Chapin Carpenter, as well as Emory Lester, Bill Emerson, Ronnie Simpkins, Rickie Simpkins, Fred Travers, Mark Newton and Steve Spence.

Henderson's wife, Gay Henderson, helped to mix the album. She says she loves the team effort that was involved.

"You could hear them bring new life to the songs," she says.

The album was a long time in coming for Mike Henderson, 50, who began playing guitar when he was 12 and started writing songs at 13.

"I played them for people, but I never pushed them a lot," he says.

He'd been trying to do the album for years, but he didn't have a producer.

In March the Hendersons met Gary Reid of Copper Creek Records at a party for the group Patent Pending.

Henderson sent Reid a demo copy of his project, and the album was recorded this spring at Wally Cleaver's Recording Service in Fredericksburg, Va.

Henderson, a songwriter for Paul Craft Music in Nashville, Tenn., used to write for Rounder Records, the label that features Alison Krauss and Union Station.

About 25 of Henderson's songs have been recorded by other artists, including the Virginia Squires, Dry Branch Fire Squad and 3rd Time Out.

Henderson did a songwriting workshop at Gettysburg Bluegrass Festival last month.

Songwriters' workshop

He will conduct a songwriters' workshop with Hazel Dickens Saturday, Oct. 3, at 2 p.m., as part of the Appalachian Heritage Festival at Shepherd College.

He says he loves bluegrass because of its instrumentation - mandolin, banjo, guitar, fiddle, bass and dobro.

Mike Henderson, who has been in the building business for years, and Gay Henderson, advertising director for Acoustic Musician magazine, have two children: Henry, 19, and Katie, 14.

They will celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary in December, which Mike Henderson calls the inside joke of the album's title, "Silver Lining."

The Hendersons attend as many bluegrass festivals as they can.

In the early days, bluegrass music had a reputation for attracting the wrong crowd, Henderson says.

Once a rural genre, the music is making its way to the cities and is slowly but surely growing in popularity throughout the country, he says.

Henderson is proud to be part of this growth.

He says "Silver Lining" is being played on radio stations all over the East Coast, and it is exciting to hear the music on the air.

The album is a way to thank all the people who have helped him over the years, he says.

"I've always had a faith approach to music. If you do the best you can, it will find its place," Henderson says.

"Silver Linings" may be obtained by calling Mike Henderson at 1-304-876-2256 or County Sales at 1-540-745-2001, or contact Copper Creek Records at P.O. Box 3161, Roanoke, Va. 24015, or check the Web site at

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